KickStart Scholarship

Ground-breaking 3rd level scholarship for people with criminal convictions goes live

The KickStart Scholarship Fund is an initiative established by the Irish Probation Service and supported by the Irish Prison Service. It aims to support people with a criminal justice history who face financial challenges in accessing Higher Education.

The application process for this innovative fund is now open to applications from individuals with a history of convictions. 

Maynooth University is the lead institution developing the scholarship on a pilot basis in 2022/2023 working in partnership with 3 other institutions - Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology and Technological University of the Shannon Midlands Midwest, Athlone Campus (MEND Cluster1).

The scheme is open to new undergraduates who have either applied to begin 3rd level education in September 2022 or are currently 3rd level students in one of these four MEND Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The Probation Service is making available €100,000 in funding for the 2022/23 academic year and the scholarship will fund the applicant’s full course of study, or their remaining years, whichever one applies.

There are 8 scholarships available in total; 2 for each MEND HEI in 2022/23, as follows:

  • One scholarship of €5000 per year for undergraduate study to a maximum of €20,000 over 4 years for a full-time course, or 6 years for a part-time course. 

  • One scholarship of €1250 for each year of undergraduate study to a maximum of €5000 over 4 years for a full-time course, or 6 years for a part-time course. 

This scholarship initiative builds on the existing partnership between Maynooth University and Mountjoy Prison (MJMU Partnership) and the recent successful launch of the Unlocking Potential website and toolkit for fair admissions policies for people with convictions.

Welcoming the opening of the application process Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee T.D said:

‘I am really pleased to be in a position to support this important new initiative which is about giving people a second chance and empowering those who want to change the course of their lives for the better. We know how powerful education can be in terms of unlocking potential, building confidence and breaking down barriers and this new initiative is about ensuring equality of opportunity for those who may have made mistakes in the past but want to build a better life’.

The Director of Probation Service, Mark Wilson said:

‘We are delighted to support this initiative in conjunction with Maynooth University and the wider MEND cluster. The Probation Service sees this scholarship as a fantastic opportunity to challenge stigmitisation and reduce barriers to higher education for people with convictions. We firmly believe in the power of higher education to help people create new opportunities for themselves and for their communities’.

Dr. Gemma Irvine, Vice-President for Equality and Diversity, Maynooth University said:

‘These scholarships are intended to kickstart a new path and direction for people who historically have been the furthest from higher education.  The power of education is that it gives choices and empowers people to choose what they want to do with their life.  These scholarships are an investment in Ireland’s future. The Working to Change Strategy and MEND cluster are closely aligned on the principle that everyone in Irish society should have fair and equal opportunity and access to fulfil their potential and this should not be hindered by gender, race or class.  These scholarships aim to address this‘. 

The Kickstart Scholarship is another key initiative by Working to Change and the Probation Services in partnership Maynooth University and the MEND Cluster which provides critical financial support to people with convictions to support access to the higher education sector.

These scholarships meet a strategic objective of the Working to Change Social Enterprise and Employment Strategy 2021-2023.


  • For more information and for interviews opportunities with those with lived experience of the criminal justice system who have graduated from Irish universities contact the Probation Service Communications teams – [email protected]  

  • For more information on the application process contact the Maynooth University Access Programme [email protected] or [email protected]